From automation to AI, technology continues to be embraced with aplomb in the accounting services industry.
Close to 90% of respondents in a recent Intuit QuickBooks Survey said technology will play a significant role in the growth and expansion of their practices in the next year.
We talked to three local accounting firms to see how this wave of technological advancements is benefiting their practices and their clients.
Four times a year an employee at RDG+Partners – a Rochester-based boutique accounting firm– is recognized for going above and beyond in their role.
This quarter the firm’s IT manager received the honor following a summer of integration, where they led a successful firmwide software and cloud conversion.
“It’s amazing to me that in a roomful of billable accountants, the most valuable person right now is our IT manager for what they’ve taken us through,” said Cory Raggi, the firm’s chief operating officer. “If that’s not a success story of technology in accounting I don’t know what is.”
When it comes to evaluating new technologies for possible use at RDG+Partners, Raggi notes the firm always asks two important questions first: 1) What is the effect on the client? and 2) What is the impact on the employee?
Raggi notes the firm first looks for technologies that align with the authenticity of their service model and what is best for their clients because what is best for their clients is best for the firm.
“These are the things that help decide what we can automate, what we can make repetitive, and what we can’t,” Raggi said.
Ensuring employees understand and embrace new technologies through positive change management and education is also key at RDG+Partners.
“I think if we’re choosing the right technologies we need you [employees] more and we need you at your best,” Raggi said. “Technology doesn’t replace service; it doesn’t replace boutique and it doesn’t replace the value that you add. It just makes it so you don’t have to do the things that anybody could do. It helps you be at your best.”
The Bonadio Group
In 2018 The Bonadio Group –whose corporate headquarters is in Pittsford– became one of the first firms in the nation to invest in the Dynamic Audit Solution (DAS).
DAS is a flexible and scalable, cloud-based platform that uses the power of automation, artificial intelligence, data analytics and updated methodologies to transform auditing.
Though not on the market yet, firms piloting DAS have found it increases engagement between accountants and clients by eliminating mundane data entry tasks and providing more meaningful data.
“It can create a better experience for our clients,” said Jen Wood, CPA, the firm’s assurance service line leader, who joined the DAS development team as one of their workstream methodology leaders in April 2019. “Sometimes audits can be viewed as a commodity, but [DAS] allows us to provide more value to our clients, so it is not just a commodity. Through data, we can see deeper into their operations and how they run their business.”
In Wood’s role on the DAS development team, she has had an interactive, front-row seat collaborating with partners from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, CPA.com, Caseware International and a small cohort of other accounting firms, on technology she calls, “the future of accounting.”
“Technology is really near and dear to my heart,” Woods said. “Accounting has been a slow profession to change, but technology is leading the transformation efforts. It’s a really exciting time to be open-minded and to think about the uses of technology.”
When Wood entered the profession two decades ago documents were not digitized or electronic. There was so much paper she sometimes had to use a dolly to transport files.
“It’s been fun to see things change so significantly over the last twenty-two years I’ve been in the profession,” Wood said. “Even in the last twelve months, things have changed rapidly.”
Over the past two and a half years, Freed Maxick CPAs – which has offices in Batavia, Buffalo and Rochester – has doubled its technology spend. This is in part from a strategic investment in a client accounting and advisory services team (called MAXIS), according to David Hansen, CPA, CISA, CISSP, QSA, and a director in the firm’s Risk Advisory Services practice.
“We started down this road three years ago to invest in a client accounting and advisory services team to help clients who have relied on manual services and people, to automate,” Hansen said. “We developed this practice to help them increase their ability to focus on higher-level tasks.”
MAXIS provides a customizable and scalable suite of back-office accounting, financial reporting, planning and analysis services to clients, which assists them with everything from collecting cash by automating invoice processing to providing real-time data on transactions and trends.
Interest in MAXIS has been swift and strong and clients from a wide swath of industries have embraced it, sometimes to help deal with staffing shortages.
“A lot of clients have struggled to find resources and people to do mundane tasks,” Hansen said. “It has allowed these companies to get a team of people, technologies and tools for the price of one full-time employee.”
With the increased use of technology, Hansen notes that another important part of the focus and spend at Freed Maxick – is on security.
“It’s impossible to escape a discussion about technology without talking about security,” Hansen said. “A lot of our investment has been to make sure client data is as secure as possible and to help clients protect their data internally.”
Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writere